By Atom Markarian
The Armenian government asked parliament on Friday to approved an almost 5 percent increase in the size of the staffs of its various agencies and law-enforcement structures next year.
Finance and Economy Minister Vartan Khachatrian and his deputy Pavel Safarian said the total number of Armenian civil servants and law-enforcement officials will grow from the current 14,400 to 15,070 if the government’s draft budget for 2006 is accepted by the National Assembly. Presenting the bill to the parliament’s economic committee, they said the government would also like to raise the average monthly salary of state officials by 28 percent to 87,000 drams ($196).
The draft budget also envisages increased spending on the utility payments and other day-to-day costs incurred by states institutions. Khachatrian said in particular that cars catering for medium-level and senior officials would be provided with 10 liters of gasoline every. They currently receive 4 liters of fuel on a daily basis.
Some members of the committee spoke out against the proposed measure, saying that government staffs in Armenia are bloated and should on the contrary be cut. But Safarian disagreed. “Armenia’s existing state apparatus is not bloated,” he said.
The spending increase sought by the government would benefit the majority of state agencies. But the government is refusing to give any extra money to at least one of them, the Office of Human Rights Defender. But Ombudsperson Larisa Alaverdian, who wants to open regional representations of her office, hopes that the parliament will meet her demand over the government’s objections.
“We are talking about only 11 million drams ($24,000),” Alaverdian said. “I don’t think it would be a huge burden on our one billion-dollar budget.”